What with Rice roaming the streets of the Middle East in the past week, new media hype has once again been generated on answering the question: "Will we ever see peace in the Middle East?" What with the American invovlement in Iraq, all that trouble in Afghanistan, Iran-IAEA standoff, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the numerous human right abuses in autocratic governments (supported by the US) - it really seems as if the 'powder keg' is about to explode. Many people have already predicted that the next World War would originate from the Middle East.
I remember that back in fall, I was helping a friend draft a speech addressing a mock Palestinian-Israeli peace conference (he was Olmert). He came up with his Israeli-Palestinian Universal Cooperation and Prosperity Plan, when put into an acronym: IPUCPP (which actually makes sense). Mocked or not, Israeli-Palestinian peace is something that needs to be achieved. Of course, a soveriegn and viable Palestinian state is required, along with recognition each other, and the right of return. But, this isn't as easy as it seems, along with all the other Middle Eastern issues. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn't only about autonomous states or the right to return of refugees, it is rooted deeper than that. The real conflict is that of religion, tradition, and history. The things of the past, we cannot change, and religion is all but flexible. Of course, every Palestinian and Israeli do desire peace - whether it is achieved by a mutual agreement or the eventual victory of one or another. But, it is the obstacles mentioned above that hinder them to achieve this end.
The first step to any such peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is to stop the demonization of each other - the mutual respect of each other's rights, religion, and history. This can be achieved through education of respect and religious tolerance, and the halting of all anti-Semetic or anti-Palestinian propaganda. But this would not be easy. The two nations would have to establish trush between each other. This would be best achieved through trade and opening up to each other. Having good-faith visits by government officials, increasing tourism, and cooperation in fields such as music, education, and medical and scientific reasearch. Opening up towards each other is another important step to achieve peace - as this can be seen as successful in the case of the Argentinians and Brazillians. During the Cold War, Argentina and Brazil had a tense relationship, and they began stocking up their nuclear arsenal. But, the two governments agreed not to continue on with this standoff; so they invited scientists and government officials to visit each other's nuclear facilities. In the end, they were able to disarm themselves completely, thus ending their tensions.
In the end, it all comes down to the negotiations and peace-talks. We already know that putting the leaders Israelis and Palestinians in the same room together is already an accomplishment in itself. But, where do we go from there? We all know that if any deal is to be made, it would have to involve the United States as the middle-man - someone to force the two together and actually talk. The governments would have to compromise, understand each other, and to try and reach an agreement. The Palestinian and Isareli governments would have to prove to the rest of the world that they are mature enough, to be able to settle matters peacefully, rather than at gunpoint.